We Diagnose and Treat Heart Disease in Dogs, Cats, and Exotic Pets

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The heart is the most important organ in the body, and keeping your pet's heart in top condition is essential to good health and long life. The veterinarians at Animal Care Unlimited are skilled at diagnosing and treating heart disease in companion animals.

Heart Disease in Pets

dog visiting the veterinarian

Veterinary medicine has seen an increase in heart disease in pets. Common issues include:

  1. Valve problems—A leaking heart valve reduces the amount of blood pumped through the body.
  2. Muscle weakness or thickening—Called myocardial disease, this causes the heart to pump less effectively.
  3. Heartworm disease—This will eventually kill the animal as the worms clog the lungs and heart chambers.

Age can be a contributing factor in heart disease, and overweight pets are certainly at risk. Certain breeds seem to be more susceptible, as well. Heart valve disease is more common in small breed dogs, for example, while myocardial disease is more common in very large breeds. Pets that have had heartworm disease, and recovered after treatment, can sustain permanent damage to the heart.

All of these issues are preventable in most cases, and treatable when diagnosed early.


Heartworm Disease

While heartworm disease has been seen in several species, it is most common in dogs and cats. Spread by the bite of a mosquito, this disease is fatal if not treated. Treatment can be difficult for the patient and often quite risky.

The best approach is prevention for all dogs and cats at risk of exposure. During the regular wellness exam , we advise you of the risk to your pet and any need for preventives. Prior to beginning preventive medications, a heartworm test is required to ensure the patient is not already infected.


Weight and Heart Disease

It is no secret that overweight pets suffer more frequently from heart disease. Monitoring weight, dietary planning, nutritional counseling, and creating an appropriate exercise regime are a part of every wellness visit at ACU.

Overweight pets can usually be restored to good health with appropriate diet and exercise. Many heart patients may benefit from a prescription diet, such as one with low sodium to prevent fluid build-up.


Diagnosing Heart Disease

veterinarian examines siamesecat

A veterinary exam can identify certain symptoms of heart disease, such as murmurs, unusual pulse, or fluid in the lungs. Diagnostic tools include:

  • Lab testing—Blood and urine testing helps determine the presence of heartworms or diagnose other health conditions.
  • X-rays—This is done to determine if the heart is enlarged or to see fluid in the lungs.
  • Electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG)—Reads the electrical activity in the heart to identify irregular rhythm and the strength of the heart beats.

Both X-ray and EKG are painless, harmless tests for your pet. They are extremely valuable, however, in diagnosing valvular disorders, myocardial disease, and congenital deformities.

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